The government needs an evidence-based policy on blood donations.
On 23 July 2017 it was announced that the lifetime ban on current and former sex workers is lifted in England and replaced with a three month deferral period. The amount of time gay and bisexual men have to abstain from sex in order to donate blood has also been reduced to three months. Read our reaction.
Terrence Higgins Trust has campaigned for many years for a change to blood donation policy. As a member of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) working group on blood donations we called for the recent review to include in its scope the lifetime ban on former sex workers and people who used to inject drugs. Thanks to our pressure, SaBTO included these groups in the review.
We worked to gather evidence which was presented and considered in the review around former sex workers giving blood, which culminated in our Insight Briefing [PDF].
Terrence Higgins Trust has long fought for a policy that reflects up-to-date evidence on blood donations and so we welcome the UK Government’s 2017 announcement. This is a victory for science over stigmatising assumptions. We hope that the governments in Wales and Scotland will also adopt these recommendations. These decisions will allow more people to donate blood whilst maintaining the safety of the blood supply. We hope this paves the way for further progress.
HIV remains a health inequality in the UK, disproportionately affecting some communities. Gay and bisexual men are at far greater risk than any other population, per sexual encounter, of acquiring a variety of infections including syphilis, Hepatitis B and C and HIV.
We are calling on the Government to commit to regularly reviewing the criteria on who can and can’t donate blood so that it is tailored to the individual, and so that it is always up-to-date with the most recent evidence which is evolving all of the time. We are also asking government to invest in robust scientific research into the risks for gay and bisexual men who only have oral sex because we know from our clinical and epidemiological work that their risk of contracting HIV is extremely low and evidence may therefore point towards a shorter or non-existent deferral period for them.
The National Blood Service - Can I give blood?